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Spring 2020

Issue 18

The University of Central Florida Presents

Forming a Bridge Between Worlds

A Love Language For Us

Are We Our Own?

The Intricacies of Interracial Dating

The Language of Food

Animosity Within Culture


UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA EDITORIAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Catherine Le MANAGING DIRECTOR Adrian Lee PROGRAMMING DIRECTOR Gabriella Montoya PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR Jonathan Michalos ADMIN DIRECTOR Skyler Shepard

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Kaylyn Ling MANAGING EDITOR Emma Ross PROGRAMMING DIRECTOR Hiya Chowhury PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR Xinni Chen FINANCE DIRECTOR Amanda Hoffman

EDITORS Alexandra Giang, Ally Martinez, Esther Zhan, Laura San Juan, Mumtaz

Abdulhussein

WRITERS David Park, Eileen Calub, Ella Kulak, Emily Tien Nhi Bosworth, Georgia

Meado, Jason Pioquinto, Michelle Lee

PHOTOGRAPHERS Hanzhi Chen, Josie Cruz, Kylee Gates, Michael Bryan Ortega,

Sumin Shim, Yasaswini Potluri

CONTENT

DESIGNERS Anusha Rao, Brianne De Los Santos, Caroline Werner, Rachalle Way,

WRITERS Zohra Qazi, Zainab Jamal, Fariha Rafa, Julien Wan PHOTOGRAPHERS Isabella Billones, Skyler Shepard, Denise Ferioli,

PROMOTIONS STAFF Jackie Deo, Ke Shang, Lauren Kim, Stephanie Chang,

Paolo Agahan, Natalie Nguyenduc DESIGNERS Chi Pham, Asma Ahmed, Allyson Nepomuceno

Sumin Shim

Yuting Wang

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA

PUBLIC RELATIONS PR STAFF Isabella Billones, Zainab Jamal, Asma Ahmed, Jared Diago, Natasha Han

COVER

PHOTO Paolo Agahan DESIGN Chi Pham

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA! FACEBOOK/sparksucf INSTAGRAM@ucf_sparks_mag TWITTER@ucf_sparks_mag

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Samia Alamgir MANAGING EDITOR Denice Devora PROMOTIONS DIRECTOR Amy Nguyen FINANCE DIRECTOR Trianna Nguyen PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR Sophia Thai WRITERS Cynthia Lai, Isha Harshe, Tulsi Patel, Zahra Saba DESIGNERS Natasha Shah, Nicole Monalem

NATIONAL BOARD

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Jason Liu FOUNDER AND CHAIR Kevina Lee VICE CHAIR Heather Santiago TREASURER L.A. Geronimo SECRETARY Ricky Ly COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTORS Katherine Ragamat, Marcus Degnan MEMBERSHIP DIRECTOR Rikki Ocampos NATIONAL BOARD TEAM Amy Cheng, Angie Tran. Chelsey Gao, Chris Tam, John

Cortez, Kim Hall, Liz Wang, Mary Tablante, Minh-Tam Le, Monica Chen, Wanly Chen, Xue Wang, Yen Le


Letter from the Editor Dear Readers, My name is Catherine Le. I get to have the pleasure of inviting you to enjoy and read Sparks Magazine’s Issue 18. This semester was incredibly hard for a variety of reasons and I am so proud of my staff for being able to face adversity and be successful. The biggest of those reasons being the effect and threat of CO-VID 19, otherwise known as the Corona Virus. As the virus continues to wrack the world, many of us are worried about financials, academics, and many other important concerns. However, as the editor of an APIA magazine, my concern was with my staff and other APIA individuals. This virus has plagued the entire world and entered us into a pandemic, but even worse it ushered in an era of racism and xenophobia. Many of us not only have to face the fear of the effects of this virus, but the racism and xenophobia that this virus has brought with it. Since virus had originated from China, many have used it as an excuse to make this difficult time even harder. Many news reports have been made about APIA being attacked in the streets, bullied, and even attempted murder. However, I am here to say we are not afraid and we will stand strong. I have never been prouder of my staff who was able to stay strong and produce a magazine that shouts with APIA voices. Many of them had to try new things on their own and I am proud to be their Editor-in-Chief. I am so happy to have been given the opportunity to have lead them this semester and bonded with many of them. I would not be able to be an Editor-in-Chief without my wonderful accomplished team. I hope this issue shows you our hard work, our tenacity, and our bonds. Happy reading!

Sincerely, Catherine Le Editor-in-Chief

spring 2020| 3


contents table of 4 |spring 2020

10

12

6

Are We Our Own?

8

Confronting Color

10

Matter Over Mind

12

Forming A Bridge Between Worlds

15

A Love Language For Us

18

Asian Beasts and Where to Find Them

by Zainab Jamal

by Alexandra Giang

by Fariha Rafa

by Allyson Nepomuceno

by Zhora Qazi

by Isha Harshe


15 20

To All The Asians

22

Close Call

25

A New Lineup

28

This Sparks Joy

30

The Plight of Asian American Women in Engineering

by Julie Wan

by Jason Pioquinto

by Ella Kulak

by Alexandria Giang

by Amy Nguyen

spring 2020| 5


CULTURE

WITHIN

ANIMOSITY I

n Pakistan, I remember sitting in the courtyard surrounded by my cousins I hadn’t seen in years. It was weird, we both had the same culture, similar language, but the fundamental differences between us were glaringly obvious. On paper, culture can be defined as unidimensional. To most, it can simply mean the traditions that exist within an ethnicity. However, why has it been so hard to grapple my place within my culture? I present myself as Pakistani, others view me as Pakistani, but am Itruly an embodiment of the cultural label put on me?

Part of the Bangladeshi Student Association in the University of Central Florida, Abdullah has experience interacting with 1

Name has been changed to protect privacy

6 |spring 2020

However, why were there divisions within the culture itself? When I was strolling the markets of Karachi, everything was vastly different. Hospitality is idolized in the country, with free cups of chai and countless biscuits being gifted to us from every corner. When I returned to Florida, I noticed how largely people kept to themselves. While kind, similar customs of hospitality did not exist here. Over

design/ Allyson Nepomuceno

To Abdullah1, a Bengali-American who immigrated to the United States when he was one, he believed that being raised in America brought an advantage over those that recently immigrated. Hestated, “We are accustomed to what we see and hear in the United States.”

people from his culture – both who were raised in the United States and those who recently arrived. Pensively, he detailed his experience interacting with the “graduate students” – code for the international students he was working with. He described cliques that existed between them and a lack of communication. After hearing this, it led me to be even more confused on the concept of culture. Culture is generally perceived as celebratory, a unifying factor. In the case of Abdullah, he was part of an organization that was specifically meant to act as a second home for other individuals identifying with Bangladeshi culture.

by Zainab Jamal photography/ Isabella Billones

ARE WE OUR OWN?


that individuals born in the United States normally do not have to face. “When I look for scholarships, a lot of them say you need to be a U.S. citizen. We are not eligible. You know, one of my Iranian friends tried to apply to an internship but could not due to the United States versus Iran conflict.” Issues like these are not highlighted or discussed in our cultural community. Again, by mending the gaps that might exist between international students and those raised in the United States, it would provide a platform for discussion and understanding. I believe that every individual can be an embodiment of the culture they identify with in the degree that they desire to. Identity is not a dichotomy. here, independence is embroidered everywhere while the concept of dependence is cast into the shadows – a complete 180 from what I had witnessed in Pakistan.

Visiting Pakistan last year, I learned more about the world than I have my entire life. While my cousins may have been different than me in many ways, I still felt a special connection between us.

When I questioned Abdullah about this division, his response outlined this concept, “You have to adapt to different types of people here. There’s different barriers; languages, places, and environments.” Thus, these barriers can contribute to feeling alienated or othered, contributing to the cliques he mentioned.

No person is the same to another, and in the same way – no twopeople completely share the exact same type of beliefs. It is inevitable to differ in ways from the community you identify with. In the end, that is what makes us humans of society.

Confused, I started to see a glaring problem within our cultural community – a lack of understanding and alienation promoting an “us vs. them” mentality. In this case, it launches an unnecessary line between being raised in the United States or being raised in an outside country. Zainab Agha is an international student getting her Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida. Determined and intelligent, speaking with her opened my mind up to a world that I was not familiar with. In her first week living in the United States, she discussed immediately feeling out of place. Wearing hijab, she noticed stares from others and dictated racist encounters she faced. “When I was visiting the United States before university, a personwanted to step away from me in a New York subway. She got angry. I hadn’t done anything. It’s because of events like these that make it much harder to be away from home.” Zainab narrated.

We are our own if we desire to be our own. However, we should welcome others to join our world and participate in exchanges of both self and culture. In a concept introduced by Albert Camus, “solitude and solidarity” is the belief that an individual both needs the codependence of introspection and socialization in their life. Similarly, we can apply this to culture and use it in order to build onour identity but also to connect and advocate with others. Through constructing a bridge between the different identities that exist within our culture, prosperity is achieved. And thus, we become our own.

“PEOPLE ARE NICE BUT IT’S HARD TO RELATE TO THEM. SOUTH ASIANS WHO WERE BORN HERE HAVE HAD A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE THAN US. WE DON’T HAVE THE SAME JOKES, SLANG, OR NORMS.”

International students must face invisible battles that those whowere raised here do not experience. It’s peculiar, the media is susceptible to looping people of the same or similar ethnicity as identical. However, nuances exist between all of us. I believe that culture is not uniform, culture is unique to everyone that identifies within it. Because culture promotes community, it should be our duty to bridge lines and bring into perspective and advocate for the stories of those that are generally swept under the rug. Zainab mentioned problems securing internships or scholarships

spring 2020| 7


CONFRONTING COLOR T

In Alice Walker’s series of essays “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” colorism is defined as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color.”

This breed of discrimination has been observed in minorities across the world. In the US, colorism plagues African American, Latinx, Hispanic and APIA populations, among others. For Hiran Gadhavi*, a 27 year-old CEO of a software company in New York, his experience with colorism primarily started after 9/11. “There was a lot of animosity towards ‘brown’ people because those are the people that blew up the towers,” he said. “When I went to the ferry to take the boat, the

8 |spring 2020

Habibi Ting*, a civil engineer in New York, detailed a similar experience. “I was called every name in the book [because of my skin color],” he said. “Terrorist, bomber, everything.” The origins of colorism dated back even earlier than slavery in America. In certain minority groups, it’s long been ingrained in the culture.

which can be seen as colorism,” Gadhavi said. “The darker your skin tone, the less valuable or poorer you are.” Ancy Jose, a 22-year-old humanities and creative writing major at Florida State University, experienced colorist ideas ever since she was young from her family, the Indian community, and the world.

design/Brianne De Los Santos

Some may confuse it with its cousin term, racism. Colloquially, racism is the discrimination of an individual based on their race. Colorism, on the other hand, uses skin tone as a metric of prejudice instead of racial or ethnic identity. This means that colorism exists even within a race or ethnicity.

police would randomly ask to check my bags like I had a bomb in there.”

photography/ Sumin Shin

heir stares were unapologetically hostile. Blinded by fear, all they saw in the young dark-skinned boy was a “terrorist” and “bomber,” regardless of what his ethnicity or race might have been. It was not the first time he had been singled out for his skin color, yet following the aftermath of 9/11, it would certainly not be the last.

by Alexandra Giang

To colorism: We are more than our skin color


“At home, my parents criticized and punished me if I went outside for too long because I tan very quickly,” Jose said. “To them, their lighter skin tone was a point of prestige, especially in the South Indian community which is historically darker compared to North Indian groups.” In Jose’s community, skin color was greatly attributed to marriageability. “[A woman] could have the best education, career, accomplishments, but if she was dark, she was undesirable and thus openly worthless,” Jose said. Rafael Amezcua, a 20 year old male, described his experiences with colorism. While others were looked down upon for being darker-skinned, he was discriminated against for his lighter-skin. “For myself, I am a guero, a light skinned Mexican. All my life, I have been labeled as a white boy and I get it, I’m American,” he said, “but when I speak fluent Spanish everybody [is surprised and] trips out.” “I traveled to Mexico on a family trip,” Amezcua said. “The neighborhood boys were playing soccer. I was bored so I decided to join them and they stared at me saying no. They said that I couldn’t play because I was a gringo and that I probably didn’t even know how to play.” Amezcua said he ended up intercepting the ball and “showed them up, not letting their comments get to me.” It isn’t always easy to identify colorism. “If it comes from [someone’s] own family, it’s probably something deeply embedded into their mind,” Jose explained. However, that does not make it any less oppressing.

This power dynamic rarely changes because “few people marry outside of their skin color,” Jose said. “Arranged marriages are a popular tool to push for lighter skin colors in families,” Jose said. “It is instilled in children that colorism is a good thing because it gives families more privilege.” With a new generation rising in tune with western culture, more individuals are opposing the colorist ideals, choosing to marry “outside of the community or disregarding these ‘traditions’ altogether,” Jose said. Once again, the barriers of discrimination were beginning to break down. To those struggling with colorism or their skin color, Jose gave her words of wisdom. “Your worth comes from so much more than the color of your skin,” she said. “The ones mistreating you are relying on archaic attributes to take your power and voice away from you.” “Me personally, I feel you can’t really control what people say,” Ting said, offering his own advice. “They have their own thoughts and their way of conducting themselves. I’d say you as an individual do what you have to do. Try to ignore it because it can cause you problems you don’t need. There are so many other problems like your health and finances.” It is clear that the color of one’s skin is more than an identifier of status. As Jose succinctly summarized, “Brown is beautiful, dark is beautiful, black is beautiful, all skin tones are beautiful. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” *names have been changed.

“People are very much aware of colorism within my community, but very few of the older generation think it’s an issue,” Jose explained. Those with the most power in the community are often on the more favorable spectrum of skin color.

This story is by THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

spring 2020| 9


Matter Over Mind:

An Op-Ed on Mental Health Stigma Chirag Merchant, who is a senior now at UCF, was diagnosed with major depressive disorder during high school. “I knew something was going on. I wasn’t eating regularly and doing so well, but I didn’t know I was depressed until I went to the health center and my medical records showed it until my freshman year of college.” Similarly, he didn’t take any action to deal with it.

10 |spring 2020

design/Asma Ahmed

photography/Denise Ferioli

On rare occasions, if someone from our community comes to the conclusion that they might be depressed, they do a great job at hiding it too- and that’s what I did. I didn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling because I assumed no one would understand and I was scared Growing up in a South Asian culture, we almost never about how people would react to it. So, I continued to talked about mental health. Our parents would rather put on a façade and deal with it on my own. I was going talk about what Nazma auntie’s daughter got on her to football games with my friends, singing at the top of SATs than talk about mental health and depression. But my lungs to our football anthem, and crying uncontrolcan we really blame our parents? Coming from an immi- lably on the way home. I titled my frequent mood swings grant family, Khaled Itani says “I think our parents never and not sleeping for three days straight or sleeping until had time for mental health because they were too busy 3 p.m. as just simply “tired”. When I was not busy pretending I was ok, I was mastering the trying to build a future and surviving skills of dealing with it by myself. I in a foreign country.” Moreover, they I think our parents threw myself into my academics and didn’t grow up in a generation where worked 3 jobs at one point in hopes mental health was talked about so never had time for of filling the gap, only being temptpublicly. mental health ed to vent about it to a stranger on While we are of the generation where because they were 7cups.com. mental health is so publicly distoo busy trying to And this is the case for a lot of us. cussed, it is different in the Asian build a future and Talking about mental health is difcommunity because the stigmas still exist, and unless you’re physically surviving in a foreign ficult. We would rather sink into the ground alone or listen to our parents sick, you are considered fine. So, I talk about Nazma auntie’s daughter grew up with that ideology as well. country . than tell anyone how we are feeling. When I first made my appointment with a therapist, I cancelled it be—Khaled Itani cause I believed I wasn’t sick enough, that as long as I don’t want to kill myself, I do not have depression.

by Fariha Rafa

I

t’s been almost a year since I booked my first appointment with a therapist, but only last month did I have the courage to finally show up to one. After making three very tentative and guilty calls to the Counseling and Psychology Services (CAPS) in order to make an appointment, followed by another tentative and apologetic call to cancel the appointment within the span of a day because I didn’t want to get charged a cancellation fee, and doubting that it was all in my head, that I wasn’t sick enough, and convincing myself that it will get better, I somehow managed to make it to my first therapy session.


In the Asian community, we deal with our mental health just like our physical health: we don’t tend to it unless we are dying or it’s affecting our grades.

“ Depression

Zainab Jamal, who is a sophomore now and has been battling depression as well, stated that she didn’t realize she was depressed until she stopped turning in her assignments and had experienced a significant decline in her motivations towards everything in general. She also followed the ideology that unless you’re suicidal, you’re okay. But after getting medically treated for depression, she realized “you know depression doesn’t mean you’re feeling suicidal. Depression can also mean that you don’t feel anything at all”. As a result, her parents didn’t act on her situation until they saw her grades. But why does it have to get to the point where we compare our mental health to our grades or rate ourselves on a scale of “mildly suicidal” to “jumping off of a cliff”?

Our immune system learns how to fight bacterial ifections, but it cannot fight depression. Even though depression is a disease of the mind, it manifests in the body. Many of our body’s neurotransmitters are actually located in our Jamal guts, not in our brains, and mental illnesses can wreak havoc on our bodies. So, it is our responsibility to take care of ourselves. It doesn’t necessarily have to be therapy or antidepressants- talk about it, cry about it but do not think that your emotions and problems are not valid because you don’t want to kill yourself.

doesn’t mean you’re feeling suicidal. Depression can also mean that you don’t feel anything at all. ”

—Zainab

Because while the Asian community has made significant advances in understanding mental health, we still have a long way to go.

spring 2020| 11


Forming a Bridge Between Worlds: The Intricacies of Interracial Dating

—Abby Hamilton 12 |spring 2020

When viewing the dating scene, there is much casual racism that still exists today. Oftentimes, immigrant parents push their children to date within their own respective culture. If the child does not find a significant other of the same culture, it is frowned upon. This discrimination also occurs when viewing Asian men as possible romantic partners. Asian men are viewed as less desirable while Asian women are festishized. Eurocentric ideals often steer women away from finding Asian men attractive. Generally speaking, Asian men are biologically built with smaller frames. In society today the majority of women prefer more muscular and macho men.

design/Asma Ahmed

“Asian men in modern current entertainment have been goofy dudes, chubby, the best friend, or the weird guy on the ‘Hangover’. No one ever sees them as anyone you would really want to date”

photography/ Natalie Nguyenduc

Po Ph♡

I’m still attending these Filipino get-togethers- only this time, I finally have a boyfriend. I go through the same routine of sitting by the other children exchanging a few sentences here and there. The elders start going around to ask the age old question. Finally, when it was my turn I responded with a resounding “yes”. Their faces lit up and they proceeded to ask me to present a picture of the boy. I opened my phone very excitedly and scrolled to what I believed was the best picture of my significant other. I handed my phone to the elders and they turned their heads sideways confused. They squinted and zoomed in on the pictures. “ He’s white?!” they asked.

by Allyson Nepomuceno

A

ll throughout my childhood, I remember attending little Filipino parties and events. These events included family and friends. The adults were often pushing their children to interact and mingle with one another so that they can become “friends” or potential lovers. Filipino parents thought it would be a good idea to set up their children with their friends’ children. I would sit awkwardly with the other children as we stare at a wall or make meaningless small talk about school. I would sit anxiously and wait for the elders to approach the children. “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet?” they asked. I would always respond with no and a soft smile. The elders would shake their heads in disappointment. Then, they would move on and ask the same question to the next child.


Popular media is a huge component to this narrative as well. The representation of Asian men in popular media is scarce. I grew up in a society where the lead role was never played by an Asian man. “Asian men in modern current entertainment have been goofy dudes, chubby, the best friend or the weird guy on the “Hangover”. No one ever sees them as anyone you would really want to date” Abby Hamilton says.

“As Asian Americans we face several difficulties when venturing outside of the parameters of our culture to seek love. Those persuing interracial r e l a tionships may face disapproval from their family, society, etc.”

Moving forward, the rates of intermarriage among many minorities now rival those who have parents that immigrated to America in the decades near the turn of the century. Naturally, our horizons are broadened. We are exposed to a greater variety of people and are not tied down to or limited to only those of our respective culture. However, as Asian Americans we face several difficulties when venturing outside of the parameters of our culture to seek love. Those persuing interracial relationships may face disapproval from their family, society, etc. There is a longstanding stereotype held by Asians that say that whites and Non-Asians are not warm or kind just because they are not one of us. “If you’re dating a white guy it’s kinda like you’re dating a diseased person. You’re dating something that is so uncultured and inconsiderate. They don’t care about people” Abby Hamilton says.

It was not until movies like “Crazy Rich Asians” rose to popularity and Korean Pop boy bands made waves overseas. This rise in popularity has changed the way Asian men are viewed in today’s society. It has shown that Asian men are more than the awkward sidekick. They can be the attractive leading man as well. More women are now open to the idea of being attracted to Asian men. Though society has made progress in debunking this narrative, it is not enough. “It’s fetishized to certain men. It’s only Korean men. It’s only really buff Asian men” Hannah Louisse says. “It doesn’t help as far as interracial dating because it’s still Asians with Asians but it does allow girls to see Asian men as an attractive guy” Abby Hamilton argues. Narhee Ahn a film director who wrote and directed “It’s Asian Men!” She says “Crazy Rich Asians” is not just a moment. It’s a movement. Angela Le believes that it is “a moment within the movement. It’s bigger than Asian representation, it’s a decline in hyper masculinity.” Men can now feel more comfortable in their own skin and not force themselves to put up an overly masculine facade. They can display more feminine qualities.

LbV♡ e Vt

spring 2020| 13


Ph ♡Us

Ph♡Us

Another factor that makes interracial dating is difficult is cultural differences. These differences come in the form of how love is expressed, food, and communication. Some couples must adjust their current ways of life to appease the needs and wants of both cultures. In Filipino culture there is something called “debt of the heart” or “puso ng utang”. The debt of the heart is the concept that after one has done something for you, you feel obligated to return the favor. You always return the favor to the ones you love as an expression of affection. Food is a love language in many cultures. If you reject food offered to you it is sometimes seen as disrespectful or rude. Some couples have difficulty sharing this integral part of their culture with their significant others. “My boyfriend is a really picky eater so it’s hard to bring him to events” Gerri Donnes says. Asian cultures for the most part are more conservative and do not really partake in much PDA. “When I grew up I was taught that women were supposed to be silent. Women don’t do anything or talk unless they are asked. When you do speak it’s very soft and in low tones. Whereas my boyfriend’s family is very loud and lively. When you don’t speak there’s something wrong. So I have to be more talkative” Angela Le says.

14 |spring 2020

At the end of the day, who you choose to love should only be determined by you. “You marry someone for who they are and not because of their race” Abby Hamilton says. We must look past the surface and look within. Diversity brings forth uniqueness. It is what makes us different. Our differences must not be hidden. Instead, they must be celebrated. Our differences are what make life rich and colorful. So here is a word of advice for anyone wishing to pursue an interracial relationship but is holding back becasue of familial or societal disapproval: “Go for it, there’s no need to hold back. Society is only progressing, and you could be a part of this progress” Angela Le says.

“ D iv e rs it y b ri n gs fo rt h u n iq u e n e ss. It is w h a t m a ke s us d if fe re n t. O u r d if fe re n c e s mus t no t b e h id d e n . In s te a d , th e y m us t b e c e le b ra te d .”


A LOVE LANGUAGE FOR US The Language of Food

by Zhora Qazi

photography/ Paolo Agahan design/ Allyson Nepomuceno

spring 2020| 15


Ronas, a 19-year-old pre-nursing student at the University of Central Florida, believes that food is a love language. Love languages are, in the simplest terms, ways that we express and experience love. Love doesn’t necessarily mean romantic as it goes beyond romantic relationships, extending into friendships, familial relationships and any other kind of relationship you have with another person. The concept of love languages was originally introduced in a 1992 book, The Five Love Languages, written by Gary Chapman but has since become mainstream knowledge. The five recognized love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Food isn’t officially recognized as a love language, but within the Asian community, it might as well be. Food is at the heart of every Asian household and is generally the main focal point of any family gathering. The dishes that our friends and families create are not only packed with flavorful ingredients and an array of spices and seasonings, but also with the care and love they feel towards us. However we experience it, food holds a special place in our hearts and means many different things for many different people.

T

here are many ways to express love—buying meaningful gifts, writing lengthy letters, spending time watching a corny movie and so on. Expressing love could even include the dining table being covered with banana leaves, topped with rice at the center and piled high with dried fish, sliced fruit and a variety of other delicious dishes. It easily brings together family and friends in a fun and festive way. For Erika Ronas, a budol fight is the perfect way to celebrate her birthday and to share the love and appreciation she feels towards her family and friends.

16 |spring 2020


“[Food] is very important in my family in how we express our traditions and values to each other,” said Ronas. “I kind of translate that with my relationships with my friends and with the people that I’ve met, it’s how I show my appreciation for them. Sometimes I’ll cook randomly for my friends or make a meal with them, it’s just fun to do.” “To me, it means the time being spent with family and friends; it’s not all about the food, even though food is a part of it,” said Nghi La, a 19-year-old UCF student studying biomedical sciences. For La and her family, food definitely takes the center stage at major family gatherings and events: “Every New Year’s, we go to my uncle’s house and we have this huge feast. You spend the entire day with all of your family—it’s a really touching way to start the new year.” Despite the love and care that families and friends feel for each other, a lot of Asian people struggle in finding words to express their emotions. Talking and verbally expressing one’s emotions, whether that be anger, sadness, joy, etc., is often considered to be uncomfortable; even when trying to express “I love you”, the words never really come out the way it’s meant to. This is why many of us, especially our parents and grandparents, turn towards food as an avenue for communication. According to a professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida, “food is an indirect way to show love. Asian people don’t like to directly express love, whether it be culture or personal shyness. People generally like food, making it an easy way to express that emotion.”

“TO ME, IT MEANS THE TIME BEING SPENT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS; IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE FOOD, EVEN THOUGH FOOD IS A PART OF IT,”

Most of our Asian parents and grandparents find it easier to hand us a plate of food or a bowl of sliced fruit instead of confronting their emotions and voicing it aloud. For them, preparing a home-cooked meal or giving us a decorative bowl of fresh fruit holds so much more meaning than any spoken word they could say. It’s their way of showing their love to us without using any words at all. Even after arguments, food presents itself to parents and grandparents as a way to express their words. La noticed that her parents often use food as a mode to apologize to her after having an argument. “When they think they’re in the wrong or realize they are wrong,” said La, “they would usually invite you to the dinner table or cut up fruit and bring it to you. They try to break the awkwardness of a post-argument and they show that they still care about you by giving you food. Based on what they cooked, they spent time and their love making it into the food and transcending it and giving it to you.” The “tough love” that our parents and grandparents show towards us is usually negated with them handing us food. “You kind of scrutinize your kid for a mistake but to make up for it you give them food,” said Ronas. Across Asian cultures, food has come to represent love—it symbolizes the quality time and appreciation you hold for someone you love and care about. Through this language of food, we created a space for love in our kitchens, where cooking a meal becomes valuable time and cherishable memories. We’ve grown to speak this language of food, the language of dishes that remind us of home and family, because that’s how we’ve come to understand love. Whether that be going out to eat with some friends or cooking a big meal with the family, they’re all ways that we have come to show our love. In its own way, it has become a language we clearly understand, without the need for any words to be said.

spring 2020| 17


Asian Beasts and Where to Find Them

South Asia - Jinn

Japan - Teke Teke The story of Teke Teke arose when a girl fell into a railway line, where her body was cut in half by a train that ran on top of her. Since then, her ghost haunts railway stations and urban areas, looking for vengeance. The name Teke Teke comes from the sound of her running on her elbows: teketeketeketeke. She is also known to carry a saw or a scythe with her so that she can slice her victims in half to feel her misery. Teke Teke is a common story many children like to share with each other.

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A vetal is a vampire-ghoul from Hindu folklore. It is said to possess dead bodies and roams around cemeteries, torturing humans that it encounters. The bodies that the vetal possess have backwards hands and feet, similar to the jinn, and the bodies no longer decay when they are possessed. The vetal has vast knowledge about all events in time, in the past, present, and future. The most famous story including the vetala is the story of the King Vikramaditya and Vetal. Vikramaditya was tasked with the mission to capture the vetal so that he could enslave it for its knowledge. King Vikramaditya was able to find the vetal and tried to bring him back home. Along the way, the vetala told stories and asked questions to the king after each story. However, the king was not permitted to speak, as the vetal would fly away. Forgetting this fact and unable to resist the urge to answer the question, the king would then again hunt for the vetal and carry it on his shoulders, listening to its stories.

designer/Natasha Shah

Jinn, also commonly written as djinn, is an unseen creature stemming from Arabic and Islamic literature. The meaning of the word is “hidden,� due to its derivation in a smokeless fire. The jinn does not have a physical form, and can shape shift or possess individuals. Exorcism is typically performed to remove the jinn from one’s body. When a person is possessed by jinn, it is believed that they have backwards feet. The jinn is often believed as the reason for unexplained or unfortunate accidents and diseases and it is believed that certain actions (especially during the nighttime) will invoke a jinn. For example, one should not spray perfume, leave their hair untied, or cut their nails at night or else the jinn will come. The jinn can also possess other animals and objects, making the fear of the jinn greater.

India - Vetal (Vikram Vetal stories) by Isha Harshe

While we may not be able to explore the fantastic beasts of the wizarding world with Newt Scamander, many of us have grown up with ancient and mystique folklore in our Asian American households that are no less intriguing. Whether they were serious warnings or stories to pass around the table, the legends of these superstitious creatures have constituted an important part of the cultural heritage.


Malaysia - Penanggalan and Philippines Manananggal The Manananggal of the Philippines and the Penanggalan of Malaysia are both vampires that prey upon pregnant women and their babies. Their names come from the word “tanggal” in Tagalog, which means to detach. Both vampires detach from their lower bodies to go hunting at night: the Manananggal detaches from the waist while the Penanggalan flies around with her head and organs. One key difference in the stories between the Penanggalan and the Manananggal is that the smell of vinegar is strongly associated with the Penanggalan. It is believed that the Penanggalan was so startled by an intruder while taking a vinegar bath that her head popped off. Each morning, both vampires reattach to their lower halves and disguise themselves as women during the daytime. Common ways to defeat these cousin vampires include manipulation of the lower half of the body, such as throwing thorns, salt, garlic on it, or burning it so that they cannot rejoin with their bodies. Persia - Manticore (Martichora, “Man-eater”) Believed to roam around in Indian jungles, the manticore was the mightiest beast of the animal kingdom which fed upon man. This is likely why the Persians referred to this creature as “Martichora,” which means “man-eater.” The manticore was a combination of three animals: the head of a human, the body of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion. The manticore could not be outrun, had vicious claws, and delivered poisonous sting from its scorpion tail. While this creature was undefeatable by man, for an unknown reason, elephants were able to evade the predatorial wrath of the manticore. Best to have an elephant by your side the next time you wander around the jungles of India!

China - Jiangshi (Vampire) The Jianshi is a vampire dating back from the ages of the Qing dynasty. Their bodies became so stiff after death that they could not walk, so they hopped instead. Some of the reasons these vampires or zombies remain undead are because they died a violent death or that they were not buried properly. During the Qing era, corpses of Chinese workers were transported back to their homes. The manner in which they were carried made it seem as if the corpses were bouncing, and the sight led to rumors of the dead bodies hopping at night. The jiangshi, usually dressed in the uniform of a Qing Dynasty official, comes out at night and sucks the life force out of its victims. Effective strategies to defeat a jiangshi include using the blood of a black dog, mirrors, and chicken eggs. Vietnam - Ho Tinh: Fox Monster Ho Tinh is a Vietnamese fox monster who dresses as a beautiful woman to lure the villagers of Long Bien to their death in her cave. The monster was a large, nine-tailed fox and the villagers greatly feared it. Only the revered hero Lac Long Quan was able to defeat Ho Tinh, who exhausted the fox monster by manipulating the elements until it gave out and died. Quan was known to fight and defeat many monsters from different villages and is regarded as a hero in Vietnam. The nine-tailed fox also appears in Chinese folklore as the Huli Jing.

This story is by THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA

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Source : Netfl ix

To All The Asians P.S. We’re still not leads

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As Lara Jean is only surficially non-White, Condor, who was raised in an American household, is resoundingly suited for the role. Spared the conventional Asian upbringing, where

design/Chi Pham

Condor, however, is the only purely Asian cast amongst the three Song-Covey sisters, who were written to be hapa—halfWhite, half-Korean. Margot and Kitty are each portrayed by mixed actresses, as is accurate to the To All The Boys trilogy upon which the films are based.

As someone of Asian descent, I considered the initiation of Lara Jean to a Western audience. The character not being wholly Korean dilutes her technical difference. Further paving her cultural digestibility is the convenient prestoryline passing of Eve Song, which dissolves any presence or influence of Lara Jean’s maternal heritage. Fanning the flames are fluttering notes of privilege—the Song-Coveys are comfortably upper middle class.

by Julie Wan

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ana Condor, of Vietnamese birth, reprised Lara Jean in To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, this year’s sequel to Netflix’s popular To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. The series has been largely hyped by the Asian community due to its lead being Asian and the tantalizing promise of overdue minority representation.


the “Song” hyphenation effectively dropped. They don’t see race, perhaps. But racial slurring, though a tad ugly and infantile for television’s modern climate, is more realistic than erasure itself. I distinctly recall an instance during my teens when an upperclassman had asked the boy I was with, “what are you doing with Jackie?” As far as soundtrack is concerned, there was an attempt to entwine a Korean song, with accessibility being heavily weighed. Trimming just the few English phrases from “Kill This Love” by Black Pink (the highest charting K-pop act and most followed girl group), “yeah, yeah, yeah,” and “here I come kickin’ the door” blasts as Lara Jean dons pigtails and knee-high socks for Peter. I’ll leave the fetishization of Asian women as an aside. And short of explicitly attributing the following aspects to Lara Jean being a (half-) Asian girl, stereotypes abound. Lara Jean, within her final semesters of high school, blurted her lack of experiences, “I’ve never been a girlfriend before.” The utterance resonated with my own tepid dating history (grades were tantamount then, romance was a carrot dangled for a later adult self). And she had to assuage Peter that she’s “a good driver now,” a mercilessly strike at my many ill-fated parallel parking attempts. Am I being overly sensitive, taking these universally applicable characteristics personally? Nah. When electing to volunteer at Belleview, Lara Jean had calculated what would present “better on college applications.”

children are reduced to humbled shells, Condor emanates well-adjusted adoptee. Risen from a childhood padded with ballet and acting credentials, she possesses an assured posture and a direct, resolute gaze. More valuably, she is articulate. If one should shut their eyes and listen, her enunciation is as rich and velvety as any ‘50s starlet. And cultural nuance, if truly that, is restricted to the barest minimum. Nary a caption is needed for the Lunar New Year scene. The grandmothers, the only lingering non-English speaking generation, are laconic. During a momentous visit from their granddaughters, they marvel just “예쁘네 (yeppeunae).” After the incredibly brief deep bow ritual, Lara Jean and Kitty excitedly depart, cash in hand, the elders’ roles further reduced to monetary singularity.

Cultural aspects deigned of significance were, upon examination, engineered as plot devices. The incongruous sky lantern festivities—even Peter had to ask, “how’d you find this place?”—served only to recursively draw the couple back together at the end. Preceding this reunion, a gratuitous language lesson is imparted upon the viewer, “정 (jeoung/ jung), meaning ‘connection’ or ‘ties to one another’” snappily justified her inexplicable attraction, in spite of the prior 100 minutes evidencing a lack of compatibility. Though To All The Boys has been granted the rare, pivotal task of cinematically adapting the experiences of someone halfminority-other, the sequel has only upheld an ethnocentric whitening of Asians. Its blunting of cultural tension caters, really, to Western audiences, which, during an era of global viewership, is maddening. While any minority-held lead is hardwon, Lara Jean scarcely deviates from the archetypical White American highschooler.

More disenchanting is the constant glazing over of Lara Jean’s Korean side. Frequently, she is abbreviated “Covey,”

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Iranian reflections on the death of Qasem Soleimani

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.S.-Iranian relations were thrown into turmoil after Major General Qasem Soleimani was killed by an American drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3. To the U.S., General Soleimani was a vicious terrorist responsible for the death of Americans, but to the Iranian people, he was a war hero who defeated ISIS numerous times in Iraq. His death drove people into the streets of Iran to mourn and to express their anger towards U.S. aggression. Retaliatory efforts by the Iranian government soon followed General Soleimani’s death. On Jan. 8, Iran launched missiles toward two U.S. military bases. These attacks resulted in no casualties at the bases, according to remarks made by President Trump. However, one of the Iranian missiles struck a Ukrainian airliner, leading to a tragic crash. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister reported that all 176 passengers onboard were killed, 82 of whom were Iranian. This latest spurt of violence between the two countries left Iranian Americans fearful of an escalation of aggression.

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“The last thing I want is a war to start,” said Amir Zafaranian, a University of Florida student and the son of Iranian immigrants. His family also worries about the potential outbreak of war. Zafaranian was born and raised in Tampa, where he felt he lived a double life. “When I was at school with friends, when I was out not with family, I switched to my American identity.” However, at home, he was enveloped by Iranian culture as well as its history. “It’s almost like a switch, I’d go back home and be like ‘Oh, I’m home, Persian.’”

not against America.” Zafaranian believes both the U.S. and Iran have done wrong and wishes a more nuanced perspective on these events were covered by media organizations. He finds memes which portray Iranians as terrorists, or antiAmerican, as well as the stories of discriminatory treatment of Iranian Americans, disturbing.

“Because my family is Iranian, I grew up

His discomfort stems from a fear that Americans view Iranians as singleminded or homogenous. “I don’t want people to think that I want [a war] just because that’s where my family is from.”

When I was at school with friends, when I was out not with family, I switched to my American identity. — Amir Zafaranian

Tara Sedagheh Pakravan, a student at Nova Southeastern University, was in Iran when General Soleimani was killed and witnessed firsthand the demonstrations and conflicts within Iran that followed.

with more knowledge about [the history between the U.S. and Iran].” Zafaranian believes that if more Americans had a broader understanding of Iran, they would believe “the whole country is

Iranians who supported General Soleimani took to the streets to demonstrate their grief, while those who opposed the general expressed their elation. The presence of these rival perspectives created a palpable tension, and according to Pakravan,


by Jason Pioquinto photography/ Laura San Juan design/Allyson Martinez

“It’s leading to disaster, because there’s nobody in the middle. They’re all hiding away.” At its worst, this polarization between Iranians expressed itself in gruesome ways. Pakravan detailed acts of sabotage that occurred by those

in support of the current regime governing Iran, against those who spoke out against the government during recent demonstrations. She claimed pro-government protesters would poison the food of those who opposed them by poisoning shipments to the grocery stores where

the protestors would shop. Pakravan felt these attacks personally. “My distant cousin ate something — she wasn’t even part of the protest — it was just in the grocery store. She got a snack that had the poison in it and passed away.”

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Because of the danger present in Iran, Pakravan fled the country only a week into her trip, but her mother stayed for a month. When she came home from Iran, Pakravan said her mother was in shock. Born and raised in Iran, Pakravan’s mother lived through the Iranian revolution, a period of tumult and mass demonstrations as the Iranian government was removed and replaced with new leadership. Pakravan recalled her mother’s words upon coming back to the U.S. “She was saying ‘I felt like the [Iranian Revolution] was being reenacted.’ She was like, ‘This is the worst thing that could ever happen to our country.’” While the death of General Soleimani led to such a tempestuous environment in Iran, Pakravan sees a silver lining. “It was a little ounce of freedom that [the protestors] could get from all the censorship, they were able to express how they truly felt about a government

leader.” Because the whole country was engaged in protest, the Iranian people felt more comfortable to speak their minds, and that’s rare according to Pakravan. “Everyone is scared of the government. They’re terrified of the government. Like even if we talk on the phone, say me and you are having a conversation and I was in Iran and you were in America, they could come to my house and take me to prison. That’s how intense it is.”

This is the worst thing that could ever happen to our country. — Tara Sedagheh Pakravan

… I remember everyone was posting the memes about World War III. I personally could not stand it.” “Iran has a bad reputation already; this is getting worse,” Pakravan said. As someone who is proud of her Persian heritage and has lived in Iran for two years, it was disheartening for her to see her identity mocked and maligned online. The future of Iran and its relationship to the U.S. is uncertain. But what is clear is that the issues surrounding this relationship are complicated. They deserve to be treated with respect and discussed with tact. There is diversity and nuance in the views and opinions Iranians hold toward the U.S. and the Iranian governments. That fact should be kept on the forefront of our minds as our leaders choose how the future will unfold.

Like Zafaranian, Pakravan has also been disturbed by the reaction to these events online. “It’s really painful to see all that’s being said about Iran

This story is by THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 24 |spring 2020

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A New Lineup Discussing diversity at Coachella and EDC

by Ella Kulak photography/ Josie Cruz design/ Esther Zhan

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W

here in the world can you see Japanese R&B singer Joji, Korean hip hop group Epik High and Japanese Irish American viral singersongwriter Conan Gray perform all in the span of 72 hours? Popular music festivals like Coachella and EDC are more diverse than ever before, opening up spaces for Asian Americans in this fun field of American culture.

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival The event that fills Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube feeds in the spring will almost always be Coachella. Coachella is known for presenting insane shows for crowds that breed Netflix documentaries (Beyonce’s 2018 concert film “HΘMΣCΘMING”) and milliondollar creative partnerships. Coachella performances range in musical genre, from pop to electronic dance music. To this day it stands as one of the most successful recurring music festivals in the world. “Most of these festivals are just the weekends that you get to get away from the stress of school and work and just be around a bunch of great people that share a love for the same music,” said Megan Mizusawa, a University of Florida alumna and experienced festival goer. Coachella 2020, rescheduled from April to October due to COVID-19, will mark the year with the most Asian American performers than ever before. Coachella is known as one of the most diverse and international popular music festival lineups in the world and the number of Asian performers selected for this year’s festival is particularly historic. Conan Gray and Filipino British Beabadoobee will bring their indie pop vocals into the mix. Indonesian singer NIKI and South Asian American artist Raveena will contribute contemporary R&B selections. Festival goers will have the chance to release their inner rapper when Rich Brian and Epik High enter the stage. K-POP group BIGBANG will also be attending this year. All of these Asian and Asian American acts showcase a huge range of diversity in backgrounds and musical genres.

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Representatives of 88rising, a New Yorkbased media company dedicated to supporting Asian American artists, are also making big appearances this year. “Slow Dancing in the Dark” singer Joji is one of 88rising’s many stars. Rich Brian and NIKI are also signed with 88rising. Many of these artists are no strangers to the festival stage — they were the main attraction at the Head in the Clouds Music & Arts Festival, which has been nicknamed “Asian Coachella.” The Head in the Clouds festival began in 2018 at the Los Angeles State Historic Park. It was a large success, and the festival returned to LA the following year. In 2020, Head in the Clouds plans to appear in Jakarta, Indonesia. As more Asian American and international performers appear at these festivals, people began to realize that you do not need to understand the lyrics to enjoy music. As long as you have good melodies or fun beats, people are able to enjoy themselves. A prime example of this is seen in K-pop’s rise in global popularity. This genre has influenced singers and dancers for generations around the world, despite most of its Korean lyrics being incomprehensible to many listeners. Ever since “Gangnam Style” by PSY broke into the U.S. music charts in 2012, the popularity and influence of K-pop has continued to grow, as seen in rising and established K-pop bands, like BTS.

Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) Another wildly popular festival is Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC). This crazy carnival ride travels all around the world, visiting popular cities like Tokyo, Las Vegas, Orlando, Shanghai and more. EDC is one of the largest electronic dance music (EDM) festivals in the world. What sets this music festival apart is that attendees can ride a Ferris wheel while listening to their favorite DJs. At EDC, the Asian American presence became so great, they set the trend for all EDC-goers. “The Asian Train” is a single file line of Asian American ravers who push through the wild crowd in hopes of reaching the front-row stage rail. People from all ethnicities sometimes hop on and follow for a better spot by the stage. The Asian Train provides a great example of

the open arms people have in welcoming each other into the rave family. Even though the train is meant to be a positive sign of inclusivity, the Asian Train has also garnered attention from racist groups. In 2016, a Facebook group was created titled “Ban All Asians from EDM Festivals.” Based on the name alone it is apparent that there was a heavy anti-Asian sentiment backing the creation of this group. Sean Acosta, one of the group members, posted saying that Asians were “killing the vibe” with their Asian Trains. The group is no longer listed on Facebook. Historically, EDM (electronic dance music) festivals present a promised space where people can feel free, regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality or beliefs. Many festivals are working to create a culture of acceptance. “I think one of the best things about festival culture and the environment is that most everyone goes there with the same intention in mind,” Tiffany Hart, a UF student on the pre-pharmacy track, said. Part of the experience can even include trusting people you may not know.” When I went up to Shaky Beats I actually went alone and stayed with strangers that were also going to the festival,” Mizusawa said. “We ended up bonding and going to the next four to five festivals together.” “People will compliment one another on festival outfits, their make-up, and are really open to sharing stuff and exchanging social media,” Hart said. These bonds are remembered forever and you will always have a story to leave with. However, it also allows everyone to be free and escape from cultural responsibility. At the time of writing, the 2020 production list has not been released.


How To: Festival Guide During festival season, “Coachella Guides” take over social media. These are some important tips to keep in mind.

Get your tickets early. Most major music festivals start selling “Early Bird” tickets to their dedicated fans. This price saves you a chunk of cash and secures you a ticket before they sell out. Sometimes, festivals sell campsite spots and you can secure those tickets as well. You don’t want to get stuck off site. Know the schedule. Everyone awaits the day that the performers list is published. Once the line up releases its singers, start to plan your must see bands or DJs. Some performers may be new to you, so be sure to preview their recent albums beforehand. Know the rules. Knowing the basics is simply not enough. Different festivals have different rules. Make sure you read them carefully. If music festivals allow you to bring your own food, save yourself the money. Make sure the festival does or doesn’t allow pets before bringing your turtle Rosko to jam. Stay comfortable. If you head out to a day festival, do not forget the sunblock. Also, hydrating is important because you will be expelling plenty of energy. If you never want to lose your front row place due to dehydration, hydration packs, a water container that wraps around your back, can help. Escape plan. Make sure your car does not get blocked in or camped in. If by chance life hits the fan, make sure it is possible to slip out of the festival easily. Next, if all your friends get separated, declare a place to meet up. Cell phones do not always receive the best reception so it could get hard to contact people. Note: This article is updated with the current lineup of 2020 festival performers at the time of writing. COVID-19 may cause further cancellations.

Story Time University of Florida student Tiffany Hart shares her experience of expression at a Gryffin concert. Gryffin is a California-based EDM artist and music producer. Hart said she loves the freedom and ability to express who you truly are without worrying about anyone’s thoughts around you during concerts. “Everyone is there to just have a great time,” Hart said. “I had an outfit for a Gryffin concert in Orlando that was a ravetake on Nezuko from [Japanese manga and anime series] ‘Demon Slayer.’ My friend dressed as Shinobu from the same anime. There were tons of people who came up to us and told us how much they also loved the anime.” Hart also expressed that bonds become stronger. When traveling with another person and experiencing such a crazy festival, you become closer with the ones around you. No bonding experience could ever replace it.

This story is by THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

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The KonMari method is more than a meme, but a way of life

The first sweatshirt was a well-known brand, the brightest color on the market and the highest price ever known to man. The second sweatshirt was one from her college days. Which one would she keep? Which one sparked joy within her?

The first sweatshirt was made of soft and heavy material. It was comfortable and durable, as expected from the hefty price tag. It insulated her from the cold moderately well and had deep pockets where she could store her phone. It felt luxurious underneath her fingertips. Her only complaint was that it smelled like factory plastic. “Surely,” she thought, “this is joy.” However, when she caressed the threads of her worn college sweatshirt, she remembered late night ice cream runs to the supermarket, spilled popcorn over theatre chairs, a girl’s night in, an all-nighter for a big exam and a particularly comfy cuddle session with her boyfriend.

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“This,” she decided, “sparks joy.” According to the official KonMari website, “the KonMari method “encourages tidying by category — not by location — beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service — then let them go.” Carol Clark, a 36 year-old KonMari consultant, further elaborated on the method. “To me, the KonMari method is something anyone can apply to anything, whether that be in their homes, spaces, or as another philosophy.” “Some people use the terms Marie Kondo and KonMari method interchangeably,” Clark explained. “Like, ‘I Marie Kondo-ed my house.’” Clark became a KonMari practitioner and consultant after many years of fighting the “too much stuff, not enough space” battle many people, especially college students, struggle with.

design / Anusha Rao

M

arie Kondo’s client observed the two sweatshirts in her closet.

photography/ Elizabeth Player

This Sparks Joy

by Alexandria Giang

Before and after photos of a child’s bedroom tidied using the KonMari method taken by Elizabeth Player from Energetic Organizing.


To Clark, joy can come from something as simple as a pair of kitchen scissors. “I’ve had it for a long time. It opens all the packages, it’s still sharp, and I’ve never cut myself on it,” Clark said. Despite the scissors being a potentially harmful weapon, Clark insists that the scissors are reliable and protect her from cutting herself on mail packaging. “Defeat the plastic.” Elizabeth Player, also a KonMari Consultant, finds joy in many things, such as her home, her pets, and her business. However, her ultimate joy is “having more time to spend doing the things I love to do,” such as yoga, watching a favorite show or spending time with family and friends. The KonMari method is relatively well known within the Asian American community, especially among college students. However, not all practitioners know it by name. Vanessa Lau, a 19-year-old plant science major at Cornell University, tried the method after it became popular. “It’s putting into words something most people already do.” “I didn’t know it was called the KonMari method,” said Slynia Shi, a 20-year-old biochemistry major at the University of Florida. “It’s a smart and efficient method to quickly clear out some space.” Shi explained the aspects of the method that helped her. “The process and advice she suggests are good ideas because I personally will put off tidying a place for so long that everything else becomes messy again.”

The KonMari method doesn’t only apply to tidying up. Shi uses the same method when picking out new clothes. “The question ‘Does this spark joy?’ is something I ask when I’m getting something new,” Shi said. “If I see a dress I like, I think about whether or not it could spark joy.”

to me, the KonMari method is something anyone can apply to anything, whether that be in their homes, spaces, or as another philosophy. —Carol Clark Contrary to popular belief, KonMari is not minimalism. “It’s true that many minimalists embrace KonMari, but ultimately, KonMari is about living with what you love,” said Emi Louie, certified KonMari Consultant. “It could technically be more than what you started out with.” The official KonMari website reinforces this. “Minimalism champions living with less, but Marie’s tidying method encourages living with items you truly cherish.” Player shared her take on the topic. “Many people have equated the KonMari tidying method with minimalism, but it’s different.” “One of the reasons the KonMari method is compared to minimalism is because many people discover while tidying that they’ve been living with items they no

longer love – or never did, and they feel empowered to let them go,” Player said. Clark explained that the misconception detracted from the KonMari method and clarified the differences. “The KonMari method is all about no matter how much of an item you want, it doesn’t matter. You can have a storehouse full of shoes, the only rule is they need to spark joy. There is no limit, no requirement, aside from sparking joy.” The KonMari method is not about streamlined aesthetics. Clark shares that her home “looks exactly like two kids and a KonMari Consultant live there,” but it still follows the guidelines of the KonMari method because all of their belongings spark joy. Even Clark’s 4-year-old child is into the idea of sparking joy. “My son gets to choose as many toys as he wants,” Clark said. “But if he is neglecting the item, failing to bring it honor or failing to respect the item, we need to reevaluate. Do I want to keep it?” It is clear that the KonMari method is not just a way of tidying up the house, but a mindset that can integrate itself in many aspects of one’s daily life. It is important for KonMari practitioners to examine not only the physical item itself, but the aura it brings to the environment around it. Ask if your belongings spark joy. As Clark would say, “Joy checked. It only takes a few minutes of looking around.”

This story is by THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

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This story is by THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA


Profile for Sparks Magazine

Sparks Magazine Issue No. 18 | University of Central Florida  

Sparks Magazine Issue No. 18 | University of Central Florida  

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